MOTHERS KNOW LESS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES AS KIDS GROW OLDER

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The older children get, the less mothers know about how their kids view the important events in their lives, a new study suggests.

The research involved 88 third- and sixth-grade children and their mothers. Results showed that mothers of third graders were more likely to know what their

kids thought were the most important personal events during the previous year.

The mothers of the younger children were also more likely to know how positively or negatively their children viewed those events.

"Mothers are more in tune with how young children see the world," said Steven Beck, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

"That's probably because young children are more dependent on their mothers and take their cues about how to respond to life events from their moms."

As children get older and more independent, they are less likely to rely on their mothers' opinions about what is happening in life, he said.

Beck said the results suggest that mothers may not know as much about their children as they like to think.

"Parents shouldn't assume that they know what their children are thinking or feeling," he said. "Parents really need to ask questions and listen to what their children have to say."

Beck conducted the study with Nancy Loss and Anne Wallace, both graduate students at Ohio State. The results will be published in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

For the study, 88 children were asked to complete a questionnaire examining important events in their lives during the past year. The questionnaire asked about negative events ranging from a death or divorce in the family to failure to make a school extracurricular activity like a cheerleading squad or athletic team. The questionnaire also asked about positive events such as outstanding personal achievements or a decrease in arguments with parents. In addition to listing life events, the children also rated how happy or sad the events made them.

Mothers of these children were asked to complete the same questionnaire from the point of view of their children. Both mothers and children also completed a measure of their levels of depression.

None of the mothers or children in the study were clinically depressed. But mothers who showed higher levels of distress on the depression measure were less likely to agree with their children about important personal events. "These mothers are probably absorbed in their own problems, so they're not as well connected to how their children feel," Beck said.

However, mothers were more likely to agree with their children about recent life events if the children showed higher than average levels of distress. "In these cases, mothers probably realize that their children are feeling bad, so they pay more attention to them," Beck said. "Mothers make more of an effort to find out what's bothering them."

As expected, the study showed that the more significant events that children reported in the past year -- both positive and negative -- the more likely they were to be distressed.

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Contac: Steven Beck, (614) 292-6849

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457t